Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
Jennifer: I grew up and still live in Southern Ontario, Canada. Since high school I have only ever been self-employed, from agriculture to green energy. The main character in my stories, Lulu, is modeled after my daughter Marika. Lulu is someone who is not defined by limits or stereotypes. Marika lived in her princess dresses and tutus, singing and dancing, usually dirty from farm play, and quite often carrying a snake or frog around.
I had never viewed myself as a creative person. From my first ideas, to writing, to taking the leap to publish, each phase was a baby step up to completion. But I am an avid journal-er. I find it therapeutic. I enjoy living with my blended family which includes 3 children, 2 cats, and a puppy. The puppy, Daisy, was an impulse buy earlier this year while riding the high of my book being finished and romanticizing my character of Aunt B the Westie.
Our home is supportive and, besides the critters, very peaceful. This supportive, stress free environment has allowed me to open up to this new path of self-discovery. I have a house full of like-minded people to bounce ideas off of.
I also love to travel; It is a great way to learn about other people and cultures. Life has so much to share and to savor.
MCA: We love when something like writing turns from therapy to something that is shared with the world. So what was your inspiration for writing Hawk Eyes?
Jennifer: I have worn many hats over the years: from managing my family to managing multiple businesses. Most of my time has been spent just getting things done! Being stretched too thin paired with an unhealthy relationship can have its repercussions, and for me it did. I began having debilitating anxiety. I had no choice but to finally pay attention to my self-care.
Among several changes and tools I adopted to feed and settle my spirit was journaling. It was during one of our usually long winters, as I sat journaling, trying to abate an anxiety attack and praying for a reality shift from a particular situation, that a hawk landed in my yard… right in front of me, then left. I had never seen a hawk in my yard before this. I love synchronicities, ‘Aha’ moments and even duh-ha moments. So I looked up hawk symbolism, and it resonated with me. Huge A-HA moment. My stress was alleviated; it viscerally changed how I was feeling. I came to learn that the hawk symbolizes, among many other things, perspective. This was a huge ‘aha’ moment for me. The hawk’s ability to fly high and their keen eye sight allows it to see a bigger picture, a new point of view, and different perspective. “Look at the BIG picture and remember why you are doing what you are doing”, I heard loud and clear.
In that moment, I reminded myself why I was doing what I was doing, and felt incredible relief. How amazing would this be if I could relate it to children, I thought.
If you change the way you look at something, it can change what you see, and that can also change how you feel about it. I used this experience to challenge myself to tackle something creative. My intention was to take this ‘aha’ moment, using animal symbolism, and translate it
into a story that children could relate to. It hasn’t been as easy as I thought, but that is okay. I am having fun and embracing the learning process.
MCA: How cool that you transformed a message you received personally into something that communicates lessons to children. In your opinion, what are some of the most common difficulties children are facing today, and how can we empower them to deal with these issues well?
Jennifer: Three things come to mind.
Personal Control. Children do not always feel as though they have a say in their daily lives. We can empower them with tools to be able to look at so many of life’s challenges and everyday moments from a bigger picture; a new point of view. This can change what they see, and that can change how they feel. Enforcing personal power. Decision-making will be a part of every child’s life right through adulthood. Perspective in decision-making is not only empowering but a helpful skill.
Life is ever-changing. Children from early ages, 2-3 years old, are gaining an understanding that each person is experiencing something different. Learning perspective gives kids the tools to accept less-than-ideal moments, and then learn empathy for others. No situation, good or bad, lasts forever.
Appreciation is an important key to happiness. We are human, and most of us at one point or another have allowed negativity to creep in. Negativity can become a habit and weight on us. For me, if I am low, the best way to pivot is to go into an appreciation rant; changing my perspective. This translates many different ways. Appreciation for individuality, different cultures, religions, ethnicities, tastes, careers and choices. Having an appreciative perspective abates negativity.
MCA: We agree! So, how can Hawk Eyes be used as a tool for dealing with these things?
Jennifer: In Hawk Eyes, Lulu is also learning about perspective. Using stories about life events that children can relate to can help open up a dialogue with them, and empower them to look at situations from a wider perspective; a bigger picture. This can shift what they see, and that can change how they feel.
MCA: You’ve told us a little bit about your personal experience with emotional stress and trauma through anxiety. You’ve also said there have been bits of beauty and positivity in dealing with these stressors.
Jennifer: For me…My anxiety was bad, I was suicidal. I learned to embrace tools that I can use in my low moments to pivot, shift, feel better. We all want to feel good. I was literally journaling, praying for a stressful experience to be over, some quick resolution so I would not have to feel the weight of it any longer, and that hawk came swooping into my yard right in front of me and left.
It was as though some divine spirit was telling me to pay attention, smarten up, have faith and trust. I stopped journaling in shock. I opened my laptop and googled hawk symbolism. The weight was immediately lifted. Now, in all aspects of life, even eating, even sharing this
vulnerable moment, I remind myself to look at a new point of view, a bigger picture and remind myself why I am making the choices I am.
MCA: Thank you for sharing that with us. That must have been really hard- but what a beautiful sign of encouragement in the form of a hawk! What do you think we can learn from creatures in nature?
Jennifer: I have had so much fun exploring this very question. Now, whenever a unique creature crosses my path, I research it. The second book in my Nature Nurtures Story Book series features a buck. The deer symbolizes kindness. They’re graceful yet strong. Their kindness is their strength. Book three will be out next year and will feature a parrot. A parrot’s colorful feathers encourage us to embrace our everyday uniqueness.
MCA: We can’t wait! So what has the response been like to Hawk Eyes?
Jennifer: Because of some of my own limited beliefs, I was terrified of being mocked, that my book would come out full of spelling mistakes. I had to remind myself of my initial intentions, to translate an A-HA moment, and tackle a creative challenge. I really wasn’t expecting any response, I figured I would hear crickets from family and friends not wanting to hurt my feelings.
I am humbled and thrilled that the response has been so positive. The book has been gaining momentum. I have received feedback from teachers and parents that have used the story as a tool to teach skills that help deal with the anxiety young people struggle with when parents
or grandparents are not with them. When parents come to me and share that their children pick Hawk Eyes every night at bedtime, I feel a huge sense of appreciation. And of course, having Hawk Eyes honored with the Mom’s Choice Seal of approval is clear feedback that I am on the right path.
MCA: We are so glad to have you in the Mom’s Choice family! So, before we go, tell us, what is the main lesson you hope your readers come away with after reading Hawk Eyes?
Jennifer: Be open. Embrace multiple perspectives. We get to choose what we see. We have a say in how we feel, how we look at any moment, and how we choose to act.